New offshore casino for Goa, billed as India’s largest - Friday 25th of April 2008

Goa’s Mandovi river is soon to be home to what is possibly the largest floating casino in India, with Highstreet Cruises and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, a player inthe gaming and entertainment industry, ready to launch an offshore casino in May this year.

The company is also simultaneously setting up a 50-room floating hotel in Panjim to accommodate guests who come to try their luck.

Casino Royale will be housed in a ship that is being given its finishing touches and will have 50 gaming tables, over 30 slot machines, restaurants and entertainment areas in addition to live music on its rooftop, Highstreet Cruises director Jaydev Mody, who is at the helm of the casino venture, said. In addition, the ship will also have rooms and suites to house guests who want to extend their gaming session.

Casino Royale will be the first of the five such offshore casinos that are expected to based out of Goa in the next seven-eight months as the state government makes a concerted pitch for the wallets of the large numbers of Indian and foreign casino enthusiasts who usually gamble in Nepal every year.

Gambling is illegal in India but Nepal has an extensive network of legalized casinos which find favour with the cash-rich Indian population. Last year the Goa government decided to increase the number of offshore casino licences and issue five licences so that the economy, largely dependent on tourism revenues, can get a further boost.

Among those who have got these licences are the Salgaonkar group, hospitality player Leela Hotels and at least one casino group from Nepal.

“Goa is absolutely the right location for offshore casinos. Some 65 flights come in every day including 30 charter flights full of tourists during season and all of them look for some form of entertainment in addition to the beaches,” Mody said.

The only existing licensed offshore casino in the state, Casino Goa is housed on a Rs11 crore yatch, the Caravela, and is a joint venture between Advani Pleasure Cruise Co. Ltd and Casinos Austria. The casino opened to much controversy and political uproar with the rival Congress party in the state raising sustained protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s decision to allow a casino to operate in the state when it is illegal in the country. It was to at least partially circumvent this that thecasino is hosted off the mainland.

Highstreet Cruises and Entertainment will also leverage a regulation that allows gambling in the Union territory of Daman, and has plans to set up a five-star, 100-room hotel there.

“Daman has lovely beaches, has lot of industrial activity and the resultant footfalls, and is very near to Mumbai and Pune. It has great potential for entertainment and gaming activity”, Mody said.

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